Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
Programme Descriptions
Research Resources


  • Now is the time: a call for increased access to contraception and safe abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Kumar, M; Daly, M; De Plecker, E; Jamet, C; McRae, M; Markham, A; Batista, C (BMJ, 2020-07-20)
  • 'Only twice a year': a qualitative exploration of 6-month antiretroviral treatment refills in adherence clubs for people living with HIV in Khayelitsha, South Africa

    Keene, CM; Zokufa, N; Venables, EC; Wilkinson, L; Hoffman, R; Cassidy, T; Snyman, L; Grimsrud, A; Voget, J; von der Heyden, E; et al. (BMJ, 2020-07-08)
    Objective Longer intervals between routine clinic visits and medication refills are part of patient-centred, differentiated service delivery (DSD). They have been shown to improve patient outcomes as well as optimise health services—vital as ‘universal test-and-treat’ targets increase numbers of HIV patients on antiretroviral treatment (ART). This qualitative study explored patient, healthcare worker and key informant experiences and perceptions of extending ART refills to 6 months in adherence clubs in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Design and setting In-depth interviews were conducted in isiXhosa with purposively selected patients and in English with healthcare workers and key informants. All transcripts were audio-recorded, transcribed and translated to English, manually coded and thematically analysed. The participants had been involved in a randomised controlled trial evaluating multi-month ART dispensing in adherence clubs, comparing 6-month and 2-month refills. Participants Twenty-three patients, seven healthcare workers and six key informants. Results Patients found that 6-month refills increased convenience and reduced unintended disclosure. Contrary to key informant concerns about patients’ responsibility to manage larger quantities of ART, patients receiving 6-month refills were highly motivated and did not face challenges transporting, storing or adhering to treatment. All participant groups suggested that strict eligibility criteria were necessary for patients to realise the benefits of extended dispensing intervals. Six-month refills were felt to increase health system efficiency, but there were concerns about whether the existing drug supply system could adapt to 6-month refills on a larger scale. Conclusions Patients, healthcare workers and key informants found 6-month refills within adherence clubs acceptable and beneficial, but concerns were raised about the reliability of the supply chain to manage extended multi-month dispensing. Stepwise, slow expansion could avoid overstressing supply and allow time for the health system to adapt, permitting 6-month ART refills to enhance current DSD options to be more efficient and patient-centred within current health system constraints.
  • Knowledge transmission, peer support, behaviour change and satisfaction in post Natal clubs in Khayelitsha, South Africa: a qualitative study

    Duvivier, H; Decroo, T; Nelson, A; Cassidy, T; Mbakaz, Z; Duran, LT; de Azevedo, V; Solomon, S; Venables, E (BMC, 2020-07-08)
    Background The Post Natal Club (PNC) model assures comprehensive care, including HIV and Maternal and Child Health care, for postpartum women living with HIV and their infants during an 18-month postnatal period. The PNC model was launched in 2016 in Town Two Clinic, a primary health care facility in Khayelitsha, South Africa. This qualitative research study aims to understand how participation in PNCs affected knowledge transmission, peer support, behaviour change and satisfaction with the care provided. Methods We conducted ten in-depth interviews; three focus group discussions and participant observation with PNC members, health-care workers and key informants selected through purposive sampling. Seventeen PNC members between 21 and 38 years old, three key informants and seven staff working in PNC participated in the research. All participants were female, except for one of the three key informants who was male. Data was collected until saturation. The data analysis was performed in an inductive way and involved an iterative process, using Nvivo11 software. Results PNC members acquired knowledge on HIV, ART, adherence, infant feeding, healthy eating habits, follow up tests and treatment for exposed infants. Participants believed that PNC created strong relationships among members and offered an environment conducive to sharing experience and advice. Most interviewees stated that participating in PNC facilitated disclosure of their HIV status, enhanced support network and provided role models. PNC members said that they adapted their behaviour based on advice received in PNCs related to infant feeding, ART adherence, monitoring of symptoms and stimulation of early childhood development. The main benefits were believed to be comprehensive care for mother-infant pairs, time-saving and the peer dynamic. The main challenge from the perspective of key informants was the sustainability of dedicating human resources to PNC. Conclusion The PNC model was believed to improve knowledge acquisition, behaviour change and peer support. Participants, staff and the majority of key informants expressed a high level of satisfaction with the PNC model. Sustainability and finding adequate human resources for PNCs remained challenging. Strategies to improve sustainability may include handing over some PNC tasks to members to increase their sense of ownership.
  • Delivering a primary-level non-communicable disease programme for Syrian refugees and the host population in Jordan: a descriptive costing study

    Ansbro, E; Garry, S; Karir, V; Reddy, A; Jobanputra, K; Fardous, T; Sadique, Z (Oxford University Press, 2020-07-04)
    The Syrian conflict has caused enormous displacement of a population with a high non-communicable disease (NCD) burden into surrounding countries, overwhelming health systems’ NCD care capacity. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) developed a primary-level NCD programme, serving Syrian refugees and the host population in Irbid, Jordan, to assist the response. Cost data, which are currently lacking, may support programme adaptation and system scale up of such NCD services. This descriptive costing study from the provider perspective explored financial costs of the MSF NCD programme. We estimated annual total, per patient and per consultation costs for 2015–17 using a combined ingredients-based and step-down allocation approach. Data were collected via programme budgets, facility records, direct observation and informal interviews. Scenario analyses explored the impact of varying procurement processes, consultation frequency and task sharing. Total annual programme cost ranged from 4 to 6 million International Dollars (INT$), increasing annually from INT$4 206 481 (2015) to INT$6 739 438 (2017), with costs driven mainly by human resources and drugs. Per patient per year cost increased 23% from INT$1424 (2015) to 1751 (2016), and by 9% to 1904 (2017), while cost per consultation increased from INT$209 to 253 (2015–17). Annual cost increases reflected growing patient load and increasing service complexity throughout 2015–17. A scenario importing all medications cut total costs by 31%, while negotiating importation of high-cost items offered 13% savings. Leveraging pooled procurement for local purchasing could save 20%. Staff costs were more sensitive to reducing clinical review frequency than to task sharing review to nurses. Over 1000 extra patients could be enrolled without additional staffing cost if care delivery was restructured. Total costs significantly exceeded costs reported for NCD care in low-income humanitarian contexts. Efficiencies gained by revising procurement and/or restructuring consultation models could confer cost savings or facilitate cohort expansion. Cost effectiveness studies of adapted models are recommended.
  • Prevalence, associated factors and clinical features of congenital syphilis among newborns in Mbarara hospital, Uganda

    Oloya, S; Lyczkowski, D; Orikiriza, P; Irama, M; Boum, Y; Migisha, R; Kiwanuka, JP; Mwanga-Amumpaire, J (BMC, 2020-07-02)
    Background While congenital syphilis is a significant public health problem that can cause severe disabilities, little is known about the situation in Uganda. We describe prevalence, associated factors and clinical presentation of congenital syphilis in Mbarara, Uganda. Methods A cross sectional study was carried out among mother- newborn dyads from the postnatal ward of Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). After obtaining informed consent, a structured questionnaire was used to capture data on risk factors for congenital syphilis. A finger prick was performed on the mothers for Treponema Pallidum Haemagglutination Assay (TPHA). If TPHA was positive, a venous blood sample was collected from the mother to confirm active infection using Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR). Venous blood was drawn from a newborn if the mother tested positive by TPHA and RPR. A newborn with RPR titres 4 times higher than the mother was considered to have congenital syphilis. We fit logistic regression models to determine factors associated with congenital syphilis. Results Between June and September 2015, we enrolled 2500 mothers and 2502 newborns. Prevalence of syphilis was 3.8% (95% CI 3.1–4.6) among newborn infants and 4.1% (95% CI 3.4–5.0) among their mothers. Maternal age <25 years, past history of genital ulcer, a past history of abnormal vaginal discharge, and not receiving treatment of at least one of genital ulcer, genital itching, lower abdominal pain and abnormal vaginal discharge in the current pregnancy were the risk factors associated with congenital syphilis. The most common clinical feature was hepatosplenomegaly. Conclusions We found higher-than-expected syphilis sero-prevalence rates in a high risk population of postnatal mothers and their newborns in Uganda. Bridge populations for syphilis may include mothers not tested during pregnancy, who are usually married and not treated. In accordance with our results, the national policy for syphilis control in Uganda should be strengthened to include universal syphilis screening amongst mother-newborn pairs in postnatal clinics with subsequent partner notification.

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